Thursday, January 31, 2008

Not Being Silent, and No Whispering Allowed: State of Kentucky's Unjust Act of Denying Benefits to "Domestic Partners"!

I was caught in a news avalanche this morning on the way to work at the School of the Pilgrim. On the radio/NPR/, on the Diane Rehm show, the guest interviewer was talking with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), about his new book, Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right to Say It's Wrong. This would be the same Jim DeMint who does not want those of us who are of the LGBT community to teach, let alone is mad at us for receiving so much health-care because we are more promiscuous than your average heterosexual, and thus have more STDs, and therefore run-up higher medical bills. While he didn't say as much on air, it is clear that the people DeMint and his co-author were writing about speaking out were Nixon's "silent majority" and not those of us who make up the "silent minority" in the LGBT community. Go to, "Diane Rehm Show" archives, Jan. 31st, 2008 for a re-broadcast. Clearly, the man is homophobic and heterosexist...not to simply throw-out labels, but really, to make the case that we who are LGBT are somehow in the majority denying others a right to speak and be heard is a hard argument to make, let alone support with facts.

And then I read, on, that the state of Kentucky's Senate has, once again, denied those of us who are in a "domestic partnered relationship" (what an oxymoronic phrase) and employed by the state of Kentucky, e.g., university personnel and other state employees, benefits, like health care and retirement (click here). While we have children, while we are in relationships with each other that mirror everyday heterosexual relationships and are, according to another study in the last few weeks healthier than heterosexual relationships, we are being denied, in yet one more state (and NC is no better on this matter), benefits that we would get were we heterosexuals and married.

Therefore, after being caught in this avalanche of news, and digging myself out of the snow, I'm doing what Jim DeMint wants me to do: I'm speaking up and out, and whispering no longer. His homophobic rhetoric are signs of a person who needs us to be in conversation with him, in order to demonstrate, in a loving way, that we are people too, who live within the parameters of the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, in which all people are created equal, and are to be treated as such by the government, which is composed of the people of the United States.

This is just wrong: we who are in long term committed relationships, a.k.a., marriage because that's what it really is, and are LGBTQ, are demanding equality in each and every state of the Union. We will no longer be silent.

Can you hear me now?

Peace out!


Teachers Told Not to Assume that All Students Have a Mom and a Dad; and Happy National LGBT History Month (in England)!

Something to think about: in public and private schools, our children are in a cultural context in which it is naturally assumed that our children have a "mom and dad"! As one mother told me at a reading from ON BEING A GAY PARENT, one of her twin daughters actually "made up a story" in which she explained to her friends that her father died, but now she lives with two women, even though there had never been another man in a relationship with either mom. The pressure to conform to the nuclear family of a mom, dad, and children--whether it is among students, teachers, or administrators--is so incredibly strong that our own children begin to knowingly tell a lie in order to "fit in," which is especially true among young adolescents who do not want to stand out.

In this article from England, there is the story in which teachers are not to assume that everyone has a "mum and dad" when addressing or meeting students for the first time. This is part of the anti-bullying campaign in England. Imagine that: not always assuming everyone has a mom and dad. Click here to read the article.

Also note: February is national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month in England! Imagine the United States (under the next President and Congress) have a specific month for celebrating the heroic and thus courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who have helped us, as a nation, make great strides in being a more inclusive can dream, can't he?

Peace, Brett

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thanks to Malaprop's and Covering the book tour of ON BEING A GAY PARENT

A BIG "THANK YOU" to Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, NC, and to! Tonight, I gave a reading at a wonderful independent bookstore in Asheville: Malaprop's! A few months ago, when traveling through this area with my daughter, I gave them a postcard of the book and said "You might be interested in this book." Up to this time, my books were always hiding in the religious section of this book store.

A few weeks later, we worked out a date and time for a reading! Tonight, over 50 people showed up for the reading and book signing. After the reading, there were some great questions and responses about raising children, living honestly and openly, and questions of faith. My daughter Adrianne and partner Dean were there to answer and respond to questions as well...a family affair.

Then tonight, I found out that picked up on the article in the Asheville Citizen-Times from Sat., Jan. 27th! Though they spelled my name, "Brian Webb-Mitchell," it is clear, once you hit the link it was about the book.

Thank you, Malaprop's! Thank you, Towleroad! Let's continue to talk about good parenting, gay and straight alike!



Saturday, January 26, 2008

Asheville Citizen Times: A Fabulous Interview

Thanks to Leslie Boyd for a great interview with her this past week regarding ON BEING A GAY PARENT (Click here to read the interview). We had a great conversation this past week, and I was interested in seeing what Leslie picked up from our conversation.


Peace, Brett

Friday, January 25, 2008

Maryland and New Mexico: Moving Toward Undoing Injustice

Maryland and New Mexico are on the verge of doing what is right: moving toward making it possible for all gays and lesbians to have the right to have a civil union, which inevitably must move toward marriage.

In the state of Maryland, the bill allows for civil marriage, but rightly does not expect religious institutions or communities of faith under a legal mandate to provide marriage ceremonies for all, thus securing the separation of "Church and state." Click link here for the Advocate site.

In the state of New Mexico, the House of Representatives have approved a bill for domestic partnership, though it has been voted down in the Senate before. I did like this quote from the Advocate article:

"Is this bill contrary to God, contrary to marriage?" asked Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat, as quoted by the Sun-News. "And the answer is no. Not a single married couple in this state will get divorced because of this bill. Not a single couple that is engaged ... will cancel that wedding as a result of this bill. Not a single straight person will become gay as a result of this bill."

Click here to the link.

So let's see: those state permitting, allowing, giving rights to gay and lesbian couples domestic partnership benefits, civil unions, or marriage includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey...and we're counting.

The momentum toward justice for those of us who are gay parents in committed relationships is coming quickly, given how long some things change in any society.



Obama and the Church: Which Church and Whose Church Do You Reference in Your Campaign, When Some Churches Aren't Friendly to LGBT Folk?

In an article in (click here), Barack Obama has a difficult task of running for national office, and trying to appeal to the widest swath of voters. One of the issues and groups of voters he has to appeal to are those of us in the LGBT community--if he wants our votes--and those who are largely African American Christian communities who sometimes do not look favorably upon the LGBT community. While Sen. Obama's rhetoric at Ebenezer Baptist was stirring (blogged earlier on this site), Sen. Obama is also endorsed by the United Methodist Church pastor Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who has (had?) an anti-gay ministry Metanoia Ministry, at his large, 14,000 member church in Houston, TX, which Rev. Caldwell says he didn't know about:

"The twin developments appeared to encapsulate the tension inherent in Obama’s embrace of what he calls a new style of politics, his belief in forging alliances even with those who hold fundamentally different views.

In this case, he has spoken out against homophobia in front of black audiences while embracing some black religious leaders who are resistant to gay rights.

“People are confused,” said Wayne Besen, a gay activist and founder of Truth Wins Out, a New York organization aimed at countering the “ex-gay” movement.

“We see one report of him saying powerful words. Then he is hanging out with some shady characters. People don’t know what to make of that.”

By Monday, Caldwell’s church, Windsor Village United Methodist in Houston, scrubbed its Web site of any reference to the gay conversion program, Metanoia Ministry."

It will be interesting to see how Sen. Barack Obama appeals to both audiences: both the LGBT community and those churches who see those of us who are LGBT as "an abomination" and "deviant."

Likewise, Dean and I went to a fundraiser/campaign rally for senatorial candidate Jim Neal (D) of NC. While he too is a gay dad of two sons, and lives with a partner, we were never sure where he stood on the issue of gay marriage, the elimination of DOMA, the elimination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act).

This is the time to ask candidates for national and state offices where they stand on issues that confront us as parents, gay and straight alike.

Peace, Brett

Mountain Express in Asheville Raves About ON BEING A GAY PARENT!

It was nice to wake up this morning to an incredibly positive review of the book ON BEING A GAY PARENT in "Mountain Express," the independent, bohemian newspaper in the Asheville, North Carolina area! Click here to the link.

What is great to read through the reviewer's perspective is that the writer "got" what I was trying to get at: this book is more than about gay parenting or lesbian parenting, but the necessity of good parenting, whether the parents are gay or straight.

I also liked taking the term from the Bush Administration, that this book is a "faith-based approach" to gay parenting! I like that!

I look forward to the reading/signing event around ON BEING A GAY PARENT on Monday, Jan. 28th, at Malaprop's in Asheville! See you all there!

Thank you, Alli Marshall and "Mountain Express"!

Peace, Brett

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Former Vice President Al Gore Gets It Right on Gay Marriage

Take a good, long, hard, earnest, serious hearing of what Al Gore has to say about gay marriage. He is definitely for gay marriage, and makes no equivocation about it, nor dances around the issue of civil unions. This clip has been on sites from, to Gore is right: gay marriage is an option that should be made available to those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. What I love about this clip is he says it so matter of factly, naturally, without hesitation or looking like he is reading it from a script.

Thank you, Al Gore!

Now, if only Hillary, John, Barack, John, Mitt, Mike, Rudy, and Ron please say something equally supportive (and not their spouses, John), what a wonderful country this would be!

Think of it: a country in which all people are treated with respect, and not mere tolerance, or worse yet, hate. Why aren't we there yet, people?

A boy can dream, can't he? And along with dreaming comes action...

Off to read from the book ON BEING A GAY PARENT at North Carolina State University! And thanks, again, to all of you who came to the reading at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill yesterday!


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Daddy and Papa": A Lovely Film

I gave a reading/signing of the book ON BEING A GAY PARENT at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Bull's Head Bookstore today (thank you, Erica Eisdorfer!), and then Dean and I dashed to another room in the Carolina Union to see the film/DVD, "Daddy and Papa" by Johnny Simon. What a truly heart-warming documentary. The documentary follows the lives of various couples and single gay dads who have adopted children and become dads. As cited in ON BEING A GAY PARENT, lesbian moms were ahead of us gay dads in adopting children, because of the art and science of invitro-fertilization. As one of the gay dad's states in the film, it has only been in the last few years that gay men--couples and singles alike--have given thought to raising children. They were all handsome men with cute children of all ages.

While the film is, overall, beautiful! The only weakness in the film was the absence of faith communities. The only aside made to religion, e.g., Christianity, was a foster mother of one child who happened to be Pentecostal Christian. That was it! And the mother was won over by the two men in the film. End of case! We learn about the politics of gay adoptions; we know the legal, psychological, and family-system issues of raising children. And we learned about the dynamics of adopting children from different races, e.g., white gay couples adopting young black children. I also appreciated the situation in which one gay couple divorced and yet were still active in the life of their daughter. But we don't know if any of the couples were part of a faith community or not.

Nevertheless, this is one of those "thumbs up" and "rent this film" recommendations. Go to!

Peace, Brett

Hillary: For Civil Unions But Not for Gay Marriage

She wants to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," she wants us to have full tax advantages and laws protecting us, wants us to be free from discrimination in the workplace, but she says that gay marriage needs to be a states-rights issue.


Let's imagine that heterosexual marriages are a "states-rights issue"? Would straight people like marriage to be okay in some states but not in others? Imagine the chaos and crises this would cause?


It is time to stop the chaos and crisis it causes in all of our lives, gay and straight alike, and give us all the option for either marriage, civil unions, common-law unions...

Peace, Brett

Episcopal Delegates From This Part of NC Push for Gay Rights

In this morning's News and Observer newspaper, Yonat Shimron reports on the delegates to the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of NC adopting a resolution asking the national body to support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians, and to create a liturgy(s) to "bless same sex unions." While I would like to have seen the creation of marriage liturgies for gay and lesbian couples, I understand that this "blessing of same sex unions" is the first step toward the eventual act of marriage. Click here to the short article.

While I celebrate with my Episcopal kith and kin, let me make it clear: all the institutional churches are doing is coming out of the proverbial "don't ask, don't tell" closet themselves. We who are LGBT have been, are, and will be forever more part of the "scene," part of the fabric of the body of Christ. There are parts of the body of Christ in which we will be called "faggot" and "deviant," which I have experienced recently, but we are still there, still here, even in the most outwardly rabid homophobic churches. Of course, as is usually the case, those who protest a little too much, rallying churches around this single issue, may have something to hide themselves, denying that which is part of who they really are. As my partner would say about those who protest our being part of the body of Christ, "Why are you exerting so much energy against us, giving us rent free space in your everyday thoughts, when there are more crucial issues for us to address, like poverty, injustice and oppression here and abroad, and spreading the love of God?"

My prayers this day are for the Episcopal Church in the United States as they make their way down the pilgrim path toward the inevitable destination of full acceptance of ALL God's people. And prayers for the rest of the members who compose the masterful yet unmanageable body of Christ (to our eyes at least) who struggle with love that calls us to live honestly and transparently. Or as we said in our little children's games of "Hide and Go Seek", "Come out, come out, wherever you are!"

Peace, Brett

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mitt Romney: Heir of the Title "Flip Flop" Candidate 2008

As John Kerry, former Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, dug himself into a hole with the line "I was for it before I was against it," in regards to funding and authorization of the war in Iraq, the latest candidate from Massachusetts is also a flip-flopper: Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney used to be for gay rights when running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Ted Kennedy before he was against gay rights when running to become the Republican presidential nominee.

Will the real Mitt Romney please rise (as they used to say on a certain 1950s and 60s game show)!

Peace, Brett

John McCain Gives Us Permission to Sign Contracts as Gay Couples

With John McCain moving forward and ahead in the polls in the Republican field of Presidential candidates, it is important to consider his position on gay marriage or civil unions: he is, from what I can tell from his rhetoric, neither for marriage or civil unions, but is for giving us the "ability to sign contracts" and legal powers of attorney in terms of last will and testaments...I guess. Of course, we can, and have, signed powers of attorney in the state of NC, and other states give LGBT couples this power as well. This is nothing new. And neither is McCain's candidacy.

Peace, Brett

John Edwards, the Rev. Longcrier, and Using Religion to Deny Us Our Rights as Americans Who Are Gay

Having started posting the comments of presidential candidates--Republicans and Democrats alike--I continue this morning's blog with a Youtube excerpt from one of the recent Youtube Debates aired by CNN. I heard this at the time it was first aired, then reminded of it again by Mitchell Gold and Jimmy Creech, who know the Rev. Longcrier of Hickory, NC. The Rev. Longcrier asks a question that impacts my life, the life of my family, and others in the LGBT community: why is it acceptable to use religion to deny those of us who are LGBT our full and equal rights? Watch and listen carefully to how Edwards answers the question, because it has to do with the place and presence of religion in the public square:

More to come!

Peace, Brett

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Rev. Michael Huckabee: Homosexuality = Bestiality

This Youtube clip represents the Rev. Mike Huckabee, Southern Baptist, former Governor of Arkansas, and Republican presidential contender who sees homosexuality equal to bestiality.

On this day of commemorating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important to understand how far we have grown as a country, but also how much more growing we have in terms of equal respect for all people, focusing on the very character of a person, and not their race, their gender, their economic class, their nationality, their heritage, their age, their ability, or their sexual orientation.

Peace, Brett

Barack Obama at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA

I sat quietly at a Presbytery meeting and heard a white elder of the Presbyterian Church USA compare LGBT people to "horse thieves and bank robbers." I have stood in the presence of an African American Pentecostal minister call LGBT people "deviant" and an "abomination."

On this commemorative day, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, it is important to realize that our current field of presidential contenders have something to say about those of us who are LGBT.

I've downloaded this Youtube example, with a tape of Democratic presidential contender, and United Church of Christ member, Sen. Barack Obama. On the next entry, I will play a Youtube example from the Republican field, Baptist minister the Rev. Mike Huckabee.

Who we vote for in this election--like all election cycles--matters.

Peace, Brett

Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Right Pilgrims

Yesterday, I attended worship at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC, and noticed on the back of the bulletin a few words that embraced Martin Luther King, Jr. as a kind of "saint" in that tradition. This being the day that we as a nation lift up and celebrate the life of not only Martin Luther King, Jr., but of all who worked toward equality among the races, it bears pointing out that one of those near Martin Luther King, Jr., was Bayard Rustin, an African American man who was also gay, who helped organize many of the marches--or shall we call them pilgrimages--including the march to Washington, D.C., in which King gave one of his greatest speeches, "I have a dream."

In reading up on King and Rustin, what I am struck by is how King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and their children believe fervently that King would've support equality among those of us in the LGBT community, and straight community.

Consider the following quotes:
Kings widow, Coretta Scott King, spoke out last year against a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.

Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union, she said during a speech in March 2004.

Mrs. King has long been a vocal supporter of gay equality and has said that her husband would have been, too.

As my husband, Martin Luther King Jr., said, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others, she has said.

Kings namesake, son Martin Luther King III, has also said that his father would have supported the push for gay civil rights.

People criticized my father back in 1963 for allowing [openly gay activist] Bayard Rustin to organize the March on Washington, but my father was outspoken in his support, King III told Southern Voice in a 2001 interview.

Rustin, an openly gay African-American man, was the chief organizer of Kings 1963 march. Rustin also founded several civil rights organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

For more of this citation, click here on Thomas Paine's Corner.

Let us celebrate this as a day of equality for all, regardless of one's ethnicity, heritage, race, gender, economic class, age, ability...or sexual orientation. After all, Martin Luther King, Jr. would expect nothing less than equality for ALL of the people of the world.

Peace, Brett

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ordination of LGBT Folk: "Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow..."

My friend Lisa Larges is in the news because she has moved one step closer toward ordination as an openly blind candidate for Minister for Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church USA. Just kidding... Well, I'm kidding that the novelty of her road toward ordination has been burdened by her being blind, though we have a history in our church of denying candidates ordination because they are living with a disability. This is where my work in advocacy with people with disabilities crosses with my calling to work toward full and open acceptance and participation of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people: both people with disabilities and LGBT people have faced the systematic nature of sin and injustice which are well-entrenched in the institutional church.

Lisa is making news--again--with her movement toward ordination. From the way I can figure it out from the wire service, she has made it through the Committee on Preparation for Ministry process, and can now move to being a candidate for being a "Minister at Large," which she will have to be voted upon at the upcoming Presbytery meeting in April 2008. Click here to read the story.

I went through the process differently: I was ordained, and have been ordained for over twenty-four years, before I came out of the closet (finally). While I have served six churches as pastor, pastoring some while working at Duke Divinity School for some of those times, serving the national church in various committees (e.g., Presbyterians for Disabilities Concerns), writing policy regarding the place and presence of people within the Church, as well as representing the church at functions of the National and World Council of Churches, I can still say that "being out" has given me a new energy and drive that I did not have while in the closet all that time. I no longer am putting energy in the act of playing hide-and-don't-seek game in a church that wants those of us who are LGBT to play, a.k.a., "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." There are more than a handful of LGBT folks not only in the Presbyterian Church (USA), but in all the denominations and churches, many of whom are (not) safely in the closet. Like my Catholic clergy friends, I would say a good quarter to a third of the churches may be LGBT folk.

Lisa is showing us that being persistent while moving slowly (not of her choosing) and steady, honestly and lovingly, works. Or as the children's song goes, "Inch by inch, row by row, God's gonna make God's garden grow." The garden of God is growing! LGBT people are slowly coming out of the closet, no longer playing "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

From a growing patch of God's earth,

Peace, Brett

Friday, January 18, 2008

Being Accepted and Loved in the Body of Christ vs. the Institution called "The Church"

One of the funniest yet sad lines I remember from working as a faculty member of Duke Divinity School is this statement by a United Methodist Church Bishop: "After Jesus Christ comes back in glory, after the rapture, the United Methodist Church will still be standing."

That seems to about say it all.

The institutional church simply gets in the way of the Spirit of God, in which the Spirit must find other avenues to let that love express itself boldly yet with calm reassurance.

Donald Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, writes passionately about the love of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that, weirdly enough, is able to transcend, ascend, descend--I mean get around--all the obstacles and conditions we put on the love of God. For example, being a man who is gay who has, in the past week, heard myself referred to as "an abomination" and "deviant" because I am a man who is gay. The name-calling that goes on in the name of Jesus is just not helpful to creating a dialogue, in which we can all find the love of God, which is, after all, what we depend upon as "our daily bread."

Miller writes this:
''I felt, once again, that there was this underlying hostility for homosexuals and Democrats and, well, hippie types. I cannot tell you how much I did not want liberal or gay people to be my enemies. I liked them,'' he wrote. ''The real issue in the Christian community was that (love) was conditional ... You were loved in word, but there was, without question, a social commodity that was being withheld from you until you shaped up.''

I am stumped, as one who has exhorted classes of students at Duke Divinity School and many congregations, that we can only know of God, Jesus, and the Spirit through and in the community of Christ. While we may be part of a community or culture of believers who teach us of the presence of God, we also need to be constantly reminded of what Jesus said: that the Spirit of God will blow wherever the Spirit of God wills. Sometimes it is in the institutional church, and sometimes it is simply in relationships that happen "wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus' name," in which, there we are, being "church" with one another.

Click here for the link to the Advocate review.



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Being Christian AND Being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgendered People: It Can Get Confusing!

From Queerty, there is an article about a Christian group protesting the the media portrayal of Christians as being "anti-gay."

Click here for the article

Huh! I wonder where they got that idea? Could it be because of how many churches of the Protestant denominations drag their feet on welcoming people who are LGBT as full members in standing? Could it be because of how many Catholic and Orthodox churches drag their feet on welcoming LGBT people?

The frustration is that all of us who are Christians can be "clumped" together as being anti-gay by the mainstream media. Of course, there are some Christians who go around slandering those of us who are Christian and are created by God as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered people, who falsely call us "deviant" and "abomination." Some pastors call those of us who are Christian, and are gay or lesbian part of a "wicked phenomenon." I'm not sure who is hurting whom in this situation.

And then there are those of us who are people who are LGBT who also self-identify as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu...

Well, you get my point.

Peace, Brett

Gay Relationships Healthier Than Straight Relationships!

While there are times in every relationship in which tension can arise, and I am always part of the guilty party--after all, as my mother and father would remind me, "It takes two to tango," or as one therapist says that if one person is having a problem in a relationship, then both people are--there is always the need in relationships to communicate with one another. And that communication means sharing the "good, the bad, and the ugly," to quote a movie by Clint Eastwood. But because we, who are LGBT, live in a culture that is still adjusting to our being openly present, and can some times be openly hostile, the need to communicate as a couple is heightened: we need to talk and listen daily, checking in daily, in order to maintain a relationship. Because of this "need" to communicate is intentional, some times our relationships may actually be healthier than our heterosexual counter-parts.

In a recent study of relationships at the University of San Diego, there is evidence that gay relationships may be healthier than our heterosexual friends: "It all comes down to greater equality in the relationship," Robert-Jay Green (researcher) said to UPI. "Research shows that lesbian and gay couples have a head start in escaping the traditional gender role divisions that make for power imbalances and dissatisfaction in many heterosexual relationships."

Click here for more information about the study.

Those in the beginning of a committed relationships, and those in larger family structures (e.g., with kids) have always been part of the evolutionary process of being and becoming a family. Families are not static but dynamic, either growing or dying, but never staying the same, day in and day out. For example, one of the latest ways we've understood "family" is from the 1940s/1950s model of the smaller "nuclear" family; before that, families were constructed around the notion of the extended nuclear "household." We who are gay and lesbian are simply encouraging all families to be healthier families by practicing good parenting, which involves good communication skills, which take daily practice. I speak and write not as an expert, but as one who understands the necessity of working on communicating daily. The "institution" of "families" asks for us to work hard, and be creative, in how we communicate with each other.

Peace, Brett

Monday, January 14, 2008

Being a Lion Surrounded By a Den Filled with Daniels

My former colleague, Harmon Smith, who taught at Duke Divinity School as a professor of Christian ethics, taught me this phrase for expressing what it feels like to be in a room of self-appointed, self-deciding righteous people: "It is like being the lion in a den of Daniels."

That is what it felt like when I entered and left the "Ministers in Training" classroom at Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, NC.

Yesterday, I blogged the discussion we had in regards to a difference of interpretation in how we read the texts. I must say, in hindsight, I think I made cracks in the thin veneer of the Rev. Patrick Wooden and touched his very soul, especially when I kept asking him about Jesus, and not the Bible, being "God's love letter to the world." He couldn't disagree with me...or God.

This morning, I went onto Google (something I should've done before I went Sunday morning) to see what I could find about the Church and Patrick Wooden. Pastor Wooden has a history of speaking hate-laced rhetoric of all LGBT people. Lo and behold: the Church has gotten so involved in being against LGBT people that they took a chartered bus of 100 people to Chapel Hill, NC to protest against the Town Council when discussing endorsing marriage rights of LGBT people. They have a history of simply attacking all the advances made by the LGBT community in public places (Click here to see some of his sickness, and the sickness of the church).

What I came to find out while I was there, in his fortress, is how much control Pastor Wooden has of this church community. Sorry to say, but Pastor Wooden acted some times like a bully rather than a gracious host, trying to shout me down, which one never does with a "goy" from Brooklyn, New York. When I got into a discussion with a doctoral graduate from Duke University (who went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Duke University, both equally conservative), slowly tearing apart how Rev. Wooden reads and interprets Scripture, Wooden tried to break in, but I put him off, staying engaged with the young scholar. He tried some more, but I was starting to crack through the veneer of how to interpret Scripture using historical cultural criticism (a hermeneutic known well within the academy) with the other scholar (besides me) in the room. Patrick Wooden kept pushing his agenda, and I just kept pushing back. I soon came to see that there was really no interest in dialogue but only advocating his position...converting me was his goal.

The most fun was at the very end, when I was trying to pick up my books behind Patrick Wooden. Not knowing what I was doing, Wooden danced lightly upon his feet, hands in the air...even lighter than most drag queens I've seen and known. Hmmm...

While it is good to be out of the den of Daniels, I think it is important to go into that context and preach a Gospel of love and grace, leaning upon the "everlasting arms of God" at times, who stood with me throughout the 90 minutes. I saw some people questioning the pastor, and listening intently as I picked apart the pastor's blatantly anti-LGBT message with the young scholar's intellect. I saw the dawning sense of hypocrisy come upon one woman's face as I pointed out to her that Paul would be horrified to see her, a) being trained as a leader and, b) wearing gold necklaces, earrings, and braided hair (Read 1 Timothy). Yet she could rationalize a way of being in that room and being trained. I asked for hands of those divorced, and while at first there were none, I asked again: a good 10% of the class were divorced. And we all clearly know what the Bible says about divorce (Thou shall not, according to Jesus in all four Gospels), but still they found a rationalization for being in that class.

And trust me, 10-15% of the class members were part of the "club," the "family, "the community" known as LGBT, though they held their head's down low and asked no questions. But my "gaydar" went "ping" with many in the room.

Would I go back? Yes. It is important to keep engaging with those whose hearts and minds may be filled with hate or wish to express hurt and resentment toward those of us who are LGBT, because God's grace is stronger than any human wall we may build up to hide from God's grace. What is most important is to meet such resistance with grace and love. After all, it is all about embodying Christly gestures (a previous book I wrote).

Dean's wish is this: that one day, pink halos will descend from the heavens and alight upon the LGBTQ people in congregations and parishes, identifying who we are. It will be more than 10-15% of the Church.

Look up! Watch out! Here they come! Halos galore!

Peace, Brett

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"For the Bible Tells Me So": The Movie and the Experience

There is another new documentary at nearby movie theaters, "For the Bible Tells Me So," which reveals the situation that many of us who are Christian and gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people: the way we read Scripture! The tension (in simplistic, reductionistic terms) is between at least two "camps": those who read the Bible out of the the "inerrancy" tradition, versus those of us who read the Bible with not only the hermeneutical understanding of reading Scripture through the prism of historical cultural criticism, but remembering (and standing firmly upon this rock) that Jesus is the Word of God, in which the Scriptures are witness to the living Word, Jesus the Christ.

My experience of this tension came to life this morning when I met with a Ministers-In-Training class at the Upper Room Church of God in Christ congregation in Raleigh, NC. After reading from the book, I opened up the time for questions and responses, and the first questioner came forth reading from Genesis 4, in which Adam and Eve gave birth to a son. From that question onward, we had a discussion on the issue of how we read Scripture. Church of God in Christ: inerrancy; Presbyterian Church (USA): historical cultural criticism. And from that time onward, we did not agree with or on much of anything, except that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus is the Son of God.

The issue is this: how people interpret the Scriptures matters. The issue of the authority of Scripture in a person's and community's life is a debatable point, in which there is neither right nor wrong, only we read it differently. But that different reading also shapes how we live our lives as Christians. And we read Scripture, and are taught the story of Scripture in the context of a community, and read Scripture through and with the aid of community, e.g., relationships, in which the Spirit of God thrives and is made known.

So, to my brothers and sisters who read this blog, Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1). The Bible is not the Word of God. We live in the living Word of God, God's love letter to the world, in human form, e.g., John 3:16a: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son" (New Revised Standard Version).

Or as the song goes: "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus love s me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so."

Let's discuss!

Peace, Brett

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Must See Film: "Bob and Jack's 52 Year Adventure!"

Tonight, we went to see the documentary film "Bob and Jack's 52 Year Adventure!" by Stu Maddux, a fund raising event for Equality NC, at Cary's Galaxy Cinema (a great art film theater), and we give it a "thumbs way up"! The film captures the spark that has kept Bob and Jack together lo these 52 years. Having met when they were serving in the military services as radio broadcasters in Munich, Germany, the documentary follows Jack's divorce from his wife, leaving wife and children to be in relationship with Bob; the film follows them to L.A., where they lived together before purchasing a radio station in a rural part of Washington state, and then there eventual move back to L.A., where they both worked as television and movie extras. At the end of the film, which lasted 40 minutes, many of us were so engrossed in the film that many people around us said, "That's it? We want more!"

Stu Maddux is a six-time Emmy Winner, and with more films coming along that address the issues facing us in the LGBT community, we look forward to some thoughtful documentaries in the future.

As two people who have been in relationship for now over 12 years, we were intrigued with some of the same feelings that Bob and Jack experienced in the serendipitous nature of all relationships. We laughed at their witty banter and smiled at their love that, they said, has intensified over the years. We appreciated that Bob and Jack live in a state (California) with some domestic provisions for each other, though struggle to understand their lack of enthusiasm to embrace marriage equality. Jack has also struggled to keep relationship with his two daughters, who were married in the 1960s, and he did not attend their weddings because of the kind of uproar it would've caused to have their dad and "Uncle Bob" at the ceremonies.

For more information about the film, click here!

Thanks Stu, NC Equality, and Galaxy Cinema, for a great movie!

Peace, Brett

Mitchell Gold at Temple Beth Meyer Synagogue, Raleigh, NC, Speaks Out in Support of LGBT Teenagers

On Friday night, Jan. 11th, Dean and I had the privilege of going to a wonderful dinner at Temple Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, NC, , where we had the opportunity to hear Mitchell Gold, the furniture designer, speak to a crowded room, made of members of the Synagogue, along with various Christians and other supporters of LGBT issues. Hosted by both the Temple and Faith in America (a non-profit that is against all religious bigotry against LGBT people), Mitchell spoke passionately about the plight of many LGBT teenagers in the States. As he reminded us all, 2 to 3 teenagers commit suicide everyday because they are LGBT, and do not have any hope for their future in a country that is, as Mitchell said, "dialing back" this country to a period of more intolerance, not respect, of all people, LGBT and straight alike. Along with our table, composed of people who self-identify as LGBT people who are reconciled evangelicals, PFLAG-NC, and Equality NC, the rest of the audience were members of the Synagogue. The reception of Mitchell's address? A standing ovation!

We had an opportunity to talk with him afterwards, and discussed the harassment/bullying that children of LGBT parents also face in this country. There is no denial that the harassment that my children have faced is similar to the bullying that LGBT youth face, which leads to this question: what is going on in our families, churches, synagogues, and media that promotes bullying and harassment of LGBT as normative and appropriate behavior? As Mitchell reminded us all, many politicians use language such as "traditional family" as code language of letting us know that we who are LGBT are not part of the "traditional family," even though the very definition and description is constantly in transition, and is different in every culture.

Thanks, Mitchell, for speaking out!



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Exodus is No Exodus

In this morning's Queerty, there was an article on the "Ex-Gay Exodus Looking for New Recruits" (Click here to link). This group, along with groups like OneByOne that continually advertises in Presbyterian gatherings and the Layman website, are believers in the delusion of the reparative therapy "cure" for "what ails you."

Exodus, which literally means going out, a departure, or emigration, is--for those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender folks--the courageous act of leaving the closet, the church's own "don't ask, don't tell" unspoken but living policy. Exodus is not denying the reality of who God made us, and living openly, honestly, and without guilt or a sense or hint of embarrassment. Exodus is not the embrace of the sentence "If I were only straight, then life would be so much easier" spoken by too many LGBT folks who are lured by the glittering falseness of the American dream (as well as a symptom of a gay person's own homophobia).

When Moses and the people left the imprisonment of the Egyptian, when Jesus went on his exodus from Mt. Tabor to Jerusalem, it was a bold act of leaving the oppressive systems of this world and claiming the radical nature of what God is doing: creating a new heaven and new earth. Staying in the closet, as promoted by groups like "Exodus" is oxymoronic.

It is time to reclaim the true meaning of the word "exodus," moving forward and away from the tyranny of homophobic American Christians.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Anti-Marriage Groups Arise: Indiana and Vermont...Must Be a Year to Elect a President

I watched my home state of Oregon vote for a Constitutional Amendment against gay marriage in 2004 during the last Presidential election. There was enough evidence evidence, after the fact, that Bush-Rove used the issue of gay marriage as a "wedge issue." People who were against gay marriage and voted for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage also happened to vote for Republicans. This very issue brought out some people to vote who would not normally vote. And voting for a Presidential candidate who was against gay marriage was "natural"...right?

And so 2008 is a Presidential year. And one of the ones to bring out voters is by being sure that an anti-gay marriage ban is on the ballot (Click here). In 2004, I was silent about this strategy. In 2008, I am no longer going to be silent.

It is time to speak out and stop this quadrennial event! And it is time to take all those amendments out of state constitutions, "Defense of Marriage Acts" (a.k.a., DOMAs), and support efforts for civil unions, or better yet: marriage.



Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Group on MySpace Among Gay Parents? Gay Clergy?

In today's USA Today there is an interesting article on Sergeant Darren Manzella, who is currently serving in the U.S. armed service and "outed" himself on a recent CBS "60 Minutes" about being out and gay in the U.S. armed service, serving in Kuwait. What caught my attention is that he was asked to join a group of 600 out-gay and lesbian military service personnel on an exclusive "MySpace" group, Guys and Gals Like Us. See the article by clicking here.

My children know MySpace and other chat-room-like websites well, or too well, as the case may be with um, one son of mine. Nevertheless, it crossed my mind: why not create a MySpace group for gay dads and lesbian moms? Why not create a MySpace group for gay and lesbian clergypersons? This is where the websites and blogspots become more than ruminations and see-what-we've-done postings, but can actually create a virtual community and network of folks who can be supportive of one another.


Write your thoughts, comments, opinions, and interest in the "Comment" section for this entry.



Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tax Protection and Beyond!

There is something quaint--well, silly, or maybe it is sad--when I get excited that in California, gay and lesbian couples have tax protection! The state supreme court of California has had the last say, and has established that domestic partners (what a quaint term, like undomesticated partners don't exist?) have tax protections as do married couples. Click here for the link.

Of course, we in the weird purple-ish state of NC (Democratic state government, Republican senators), have no such laws to be argued before any court in the state. As a couple, we file everything separately, because according to the laws of the state of North Carolina we are two individuals living together under the same roof.

But states like California, New Hampshire with its new laws permitting civil unions (along with New Jersey, etc.) are providing us with a road-map for our pilgrimage for full and total equality with heterosexuals in this country.



Thursday, January 3, 2008

Traditional Marriage? Not!

In a clip on, there is the following exchange between Mitt Romney's spokesperson, former Sen. Jim Talent (MO) and Chris Matthews, in which Talent talks about the "militant gays" who want to change one part of the "cultural institutions" of America: marriage:

"Mitt Romney adviser Jim Talent appeared on Hardball and Chris Matthew asked him about his flip-flopping on various issues, including gay rights.

Matthews: What do you make of his claim...he claimed he was more pro-gay than Ted Kennedy. He wouldn't be saying that in Iowa because it's not a popular position, but hasn't he changed on a number of issues?

Talent: He’s always had the same position as to regards to the gay agenda. Look, he wants to know people to know he values gay people as people, okay? But he doesn’t want the militant gays to be able to change the cultural institutions of the country."

As I state in the book ON BEING A GAY PARENT, the very concept of "marriage" and "families" have always been influx; "marriage" and "family" are what I would consider "context dependent terms," by which I mean they are defined or perceived dependent upon the larger cultural context in which they are part of. Heck: there are eleven or more different definitions of the word "family" in the many editions of Webster and Oxford dictionaries, let alone "marriage." So when the words "traditional marriage" or "traditional families" are being used by politicians like the former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA), or in the Church, e.g., James Dobson, we should boldly ask: "Which definition of marriage are you using when using the word 'traditional?' And whose definition or description of family are you referring to?" According to the former Senator from MO, Jim Talent, I am a militant gay because I have a mind and use it when questioning and promoting marriage-rights for those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people. Or perhaps I am just a dad who cares about his family...who happens to also be gay. This much I know: on the issue of family and marriage among those of us in the LGBT community, I am an uppity gay!

Peace, Brett

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Hampshire Celebrates Civil Unions, While Oregon's Civil Partnership Law is Blocked!

What a fantastic way to start off the new year: New Hampshire is the fourth state to approve civil unions! Twenty couples have already signed up and had a late night service for their civil unions in the Granite State. Click here to the link.

But in what can only be called an unusual but apparently legal ruling, a federal judge stopped a new law in Oregon, in which lesbians and gays could enter into a civil partnership, being granted many of the same tax and legal benefits that heterosexuals enjoy in heterosexual marriages, all because of the question of the way signatures are verified in the state.

Again, as I have written in my book On Being a Gay Parent, given the modern construction of lesbian and gay relationships, we are aiming for the same benefits as married heterosexual couples, which, in terms of our families with children, give our children and us a "handle" or way of calling or addressing our otherwise "long term significant relationships," a.k.a., "a couple." While "same-sex union" and "civil unions" are nice cliches and get close giving us the tax and legal benefits of marriage (as an aside, what gay or straight relationship is always a civil union if it is a relationship that is alive and kicking?) it just isn't the same thing. Sometimes, language does matter. This is more than a game of euphemisms between "same sex unions" and "marriage." Click here to the link.

However, Oregon is instituting what we in North Carolina can only dream of : a state law banning discrimination in the workplace and housing based upon sexual orientation. This would have been a very helpful law in my latter days at Duke University.

Happy new year to one and all! May 2008 find us more blessed and in a slightly more progressive country than where we were in 2007!

Peace, Brett